My aunt is the only person in the world my father would defer to without question or complaint. In one odd hallucinatory conversation I had with him in a hospital (when we're not talking about our lives in airports, we do it in hospitals--it is a little disturbing), I asked Dad why he respected his sister so much. He thought about it for a long time. I half expected him to respond with a narrative a la The House of Usher about a grotesque childhood trauma (perhaps my aunt locked him in a cupboard or dangled him screaming over the family well). Instead, Dad garbled out a meta-philosophical case study. His parents indulged him because of his precocious intelligence. By all accounts, he was a gifted child, which in my father's case meant that he spent most of his adolescence as a juvenile delinquent and generally raising hell for the adults around him. Lacking any sort of moral compass, he turned to his quiet, reserved, no less intelligent elder sister who, unlike her brother, was a model of academic probity. You know, what might be referred to as the typical Asian Overachiever, in an age when Asian Overachievers were not yet looked upon as a rather malicious stereotype but as manifestations of an exemplary, virtuous lifestyle etc. In any case, overachiever or not, my aunt kicked my father's ass several times over, and since then--to hear him tell it--he's always depended on her to 'draw the line.' I love it how my aunt could manage to reduce Dad into a mass of neurotic complexes when she drops a mild joke in the middle of a dinner conversation about how he's become a 'corporate sellout.' It's beautiful.
(Being the eldest sister myself, I've always wondered about my aunt's technique. Surely there must be more to it than being or at least appearing to be perfect? I could, with some verbal pyrotechnics, probably prod Glen or Bai into standing on the edge of a cliff, but I'd have to push them to make them jump. I prefer voluntary/pre-emptive submission to the cosmic, i.e., my will. When I told my aunt about this, she fixed me with a hard stare and told me that I need to stop thinking like an East African dictator with regard to my siblings. Comes from my mother's side of the family, I suppose).
Kuya Mark's relationship with his mother, on the other hand, is of a very different mold. Actually, one of the things I respect most about him is how, without disrupting their relations one bit, he's managed to create a totally independent lifestyle for himself which, in its essence, is based on contradicting every single one of his mother's ideological precepts. Such that he managed to glean through his admittedly eccentric interpretative filter of the world, anyhow. I don't think it's a cognitive effort, more like a certain type of emotional sensitivity which I lack, at least in relation to my own parents. But that's another story.